LoveBeer, LoveFood: ‘The Bearded Lady' award-winning blackberry stout recipe

CINCINNATI -- Just recently, one of my husband and I’s recipes – our blackberry Belgian stout, “The Bearded Lady” -- won a gold medal in the “All American Homebrew Competition ,”  a BJCP sanctioned contest hosted by the Cincinnati Malt Infusers .

Obviously, we are ecstatic. Though we’ve been brewing beer for about seven years, we’ve only just started entering competitions.

What makes the win all the sweeter is now that I’ve actually judged in a competition, I know how intense and critical our BJCP folks are.

blackberry stout

Even before winning the award, we knew this beer was pretty special. We first brewed it in the summer of 2012. Because we liked it so much, it became a household seasonal. Since then, we’ve had special requests for it from friends, acquaintances, and near-strangers too.

The flavor on “The Bearded Lady” is extremely complex. It starts with an aroma of tart fruit with a hint of chocolate and roast. Then when sipping, you get sweetness up front, then tartness from the blackberries, which rounds out to a luscious mocha finish.

I came up with the name “The Bearded Lady” because the stereotypically feminine sweet tart fruit with a burly lumberjack stout base lends it freakish drinkability.

It’s a strange, beautiful brew.

blackberry stout

“The Bearded Lady”

  • 1 liter yeast starter using a packet of Wyeast 1581 (if you can’t find 1581, which is a specialty Belgian stout yeast, try another Belgian yeast strain with similar specs)
  • 12 lbs two row malt
  • 2 lbs crystal 60
  • 8 oz chocolate malt
  • 8 oz roasted barley
  • 4 oz black patent
  • 8 oz flaked wheat
  • 1.5 oz Fuggle
  • hops (AA ~4%) @ 60 minutes (use a hop bag if you have one)
  • 1.5 oz Fuggle hops @ 15 minutes
  • 1/2 Whirlfloc Tablet at 5 minutes before end of boil
  • a 49 oz can of Vintner’s Harvest Fruit Puree – Blackberry to add to secondary fermentation

This recipe will produce a 5 gallon batch of beer. Mash in at 148 degrees for 45 minutes, then step up to 152 for another 45 minutes. Mash out. Boil for 60 minutes. Cool down, and pitch yeast, making sure to aerate the wort well.

Here are the specs:

  • Original gravity: 1.062
  • Gravity after primary: 1.015
  • Final gravity after secondary: 1.017
  • ABV: 6.5% ABV
  • IBU: 30 IBU
  • SRM: 35

Like I’ve said before, we always ferment in plastic buckets, typically for a week or two then transfer to a 5 or 6 Gallon Glass Carboy  for another week or two. We kept our beer at ~68 degrees Fahrenheit throughout primary and secondary.

When transferring from primary to secondary, add your blackberry puree directly into your secondary vessel. The contents of the blackberry puree are sterile, but make sure to dunk the outside of the can and can opener into sanitizer (we use Star San).

blackberry stout

You may also want to sanitize a funnel to pour the puree easily into a narrow necked carboy – from experience, this stuff stains.

After remaining in secondary for 1-2 weeks, cold crash to 38 degrees overnight before kegging. Cold crashing helps to improve the clarity of the beer. You can also add  a natural clarifier like isinglass.

Our next beer in the planning stages is a Belgian tripel with chamomile. What delightfully bizarre beers are you brewing up?

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